Singing is a SPORT! It's truly a MUSCULAR event. And, any muscular improvement requires training, workouts, personal wellness, rest, and a healthy diet. Thus, as Vocal Athletes, we must not neglect the whole of our Athleticism if we want our voices to excel. Singers are often astonished after beginning a workout program that involves cardio, stretching, weight training, dietary changes, and overall physical fitness. Almost as if by magic their VOICES improve suddenly by leaps and bounds! Why? It's because singing really is a SPORT! So, try becoming a "two-sport athlete" by getting your body AND your voice into their finest forms! See you at the gym (and in the practice room)!
An "ONSET" is a vocal term that refers to the beginning of a vocal phrase or sung sound. A common habit of singers is to start vowels with a harsh Onset, known as a "glottal onset" or "glottal attack". This is not wrong or harmful in itself. The problem is doing it too often or too harshly. The first step in changing this is to become aware that it's a habit. Record yourself and listen to your phrases beginning with vowels. If harsh Onsets are a problem, try placing a gentle inaudible "H" in front of the word or phrase. This begins your vocalization in a much smoother way. There are times when you might choose a harsh glottal attack as a stylistic device, like in a rock song where you're seeking an edgier sound. Even still, you'll benefit from knowing how to do a balanced Onset, as you'll be able to finely tune your vocal fold compression and breath!
Did anyone tell you? That your voice is absolutely beautiful? If they failed to say it, then they clearly weren't paying close enough attention. Didn't anyone tell you? That your voice is one-of-a-kind. If they did, then they heard your SOUL loudly and clearly. Did anyone tell you? That you should stop singing and give up on the love inside you. If so, then it's good that you ignored them. Didn't anyone tell you? That your voice is a MIRACLE. If they did, then you should believe them. Because it's true. And even if they didn't, you should sing anyway. With all that you are. And you should tell the whole world. About your passionate love for singing. About how much it has meant to you. And how it has helped make you the miraculous person that you are today. Did anyone tell you? Did you tell them?
Will the Music Industry decide your destiny or will YOU decide? Answering this question will likely determine whether you have what it takes to make it as a professional artist. Many performers have a "wait and see" attitude when it comes to their career. They go into the industry hoping someone will notice them, discover them, or "make them" an artist. In contrast, there are artists who already KNOW that they are artists - regardless of whether they ever get the jobs they want. They don't need the industry's approval. Their singing and their craft are just "who they are". Ironically, these artists who do it for the pure LOVE of their craft, without worrying about the results, usually have the greatest success. So, dig deep and consider the artist you really are in your heart and soul. If you know this, you won't have to find your destiny. Your destiny will find YOU!
In today's entertainment industry, VIDEO auditions are often taking the place of LIVE auditions. Thankfully, video recording on your smartphone is considered to be an acceptable practice. This said, it's still nice to make your audition videos look as professional as possible, even with a small budget. You might want to invest in a tripod for your camera or phone, so that the picture is steady and at the right height. Either purchase a basic lighting kit or find some good lamps that show you at your best. Record your audition videos in a space that is free from too many visual distractions. The space should also be free from any background noises. Keep your audition videos as simple and as professional as possible. This way the casting team will focus all of their attention on YOU!
Don't sweat the TECHNIQUE!" There's a huge difference between TECHNIQUE exercises and Vocal WARMUPS. A warmup is something you might do for 5-15 minutes before a performance, an audition, or even a practice session. However, technique exercises are specifically designed vocal workouts that help to build strength, flexibility, coordination, stamina, resonance, agility, and tone. Too many singers never achieve the results they are hoping for because they don't see the point of doing "warmups". Yet, when this happens, they have sadly missed the point entirely by mistaking valuable technique practice for mere "warmups". Don't just warm up and then sing songs. Make sure you've also got focussed daily technique exercises that allow you to become the singer you want to be. For the best results and fastest progress with your singing: "Don't sweat the TECHNIQUE!"
Have you considered the ACTING values of your song? It's easy to go through the motions while singing. However, in order to make a true connection with your audience, you must understand the dramatic nuances of your song. Musical aspects come first of course - the melody, rhythm, and stylistic choices. But, consider the CIRCUMSTANCES next. WHO are you singing to? What do you WANT in the song? WHERE does the song take place? What are the specific BEATS (or changes of thought) that the character has throughout the song? What do those unfamiliar words MEAN? If you hang on to both musical and acting aspects of your songs, then you'll be thrilled when your audience hangs onto your every word!
You've probably noticed that the ACOUSTICS of a room can change the way your voice sounds. Don't we all sound lovely in the shower? Reverberations of sound against different materials and across varying spaces affect the way our voices resonate. If we practice in a small carpeted room every day and then go audition on a large wooden stage, we might end up confused and thrown off. We often sing differently when we perceive that our voice sounds differently. The best way to combat this problem is to practice in a wide variety of settings. Monitor the vocal adjustments you make in each environment. Then, when you do find yourself in a space with poor acoustics, you'll trust your training and you won't overcompensate! Don't just sing in one place. Sing EVERYWHERE!
"Sing with more resonance!" Ok, but which KIND of resonance? Often Voice Teachers are listening for Nasal Resonance in your voice. A nasally resonant voice has sharper edge, warmth, and agility - all wonderful things regardless of style. I know, I know - you don't want to sound "nasal". However, Nasal Resonance is a completely different sound than "nasality". With your mouth closed, try gently humming a melody. Did it sound nasal to you? Probably not. Yet it was chock full of Nasal Resonance! If yours did sound "nasal", you were probably squeezing the muscles of your larynx too tightly. Try it again, this time a little softer and smoother, and MMM… Listen to that Nasal Resonance!
"Sing from your DIAPHRAGM!" That's something every singer must do! Right? Hmmm. WRONG actually. In fact, it's impossible to sing from your Diaphragm! The Diaphragm is a muscle that ONLY inhales. It's active during inhales and passive during exhales. Singing happens when we exhale. So, instead of singing from the Diaphragm, we instead need to ISOLATE our Diaphragm when we inhale. How do we do this? It's as simple as making sure our inhalations are deep, calm, effortless, and free of upper-body tension. It may come as a surprise to you that "singing from the Diaphragm" is a myth. Yet, even though you cannot sing from your Diaphragm - nobody can stop you from singing from your Soul!
You might notice that Jazz singers often have a CONVERSATIONAL approach to their phrasing. This is a great starting point when learning to sing Jazz. Listen to the endless list of great Jazz artists (Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, etc.) and you'll notice "speech-like" tone accompanied by inflections, pauses, emphases that are very specific to each singers' conversational style. In Jazz, individuality, improvisation, and originality are favored over replicating every written note and rhythm. Learn the original music first as a road map. From there, you can begin to improvise notes and rhythms via your own conversational instincts. Ultimately, your improvisational choices should feel very similar to having a lively conversation on pitch!
Give your Larynx a BREAK! The Larynx's primary function is as a safety valve. It's designed to protect the lungs from being invaded by food, drink, and foreign objects. It also seals off the airway to assist with the act of heavy lifting and other physical tasks. During singing, it's vital that we override these anatomical functions. If we don't, the Larynx and vocal folds become too gripped and squeezed for healthy singing. Instead, we must allow air to flow through the Larynx at a small and steady rate. This allows the vocal folds to vibrate freely and make sound. Trying to sing without this steady airflow is the equivalent of driving a car with the BRAKE on! While braking is a natural function, it's time to let a little air through. Give your Larynx a BREAK!
Appreciate not only good singers, but also MEDIOCRE ones! Did you know that studies have shown people are able to lift more weight when they are next to someone lifting just a little less? We would think it would be the opposite! As it turns out, though, we get a confidence boost when we aren't always comparing ourselves to others with a superior skill-set. Listening to out-of-tune singers won't do the trick - the disparity is too great. However, by staying aware that there are singers who aren't quite as proficient as you actually results in BETTER singing! Remember, it's not about judging others negatively. It's about recognizing how far you've come on your vocal journey, rather than constantly focussing on how far you have to go. Celebrate ALL singers! Yourself included!
Riffs aren't harder than SCALES! Most Riffs in any style of music are variations on just a few simple scales. You can build your Riffing vocabulary by working these scales into your regular warm-ups and vocal practice. One of the most common scales you'll hear in Riffs is the major pentatonic scale (1-2-3-5-6). Try singing a pentatonic pattern instead of the usual 1-2-3-4-5 ascending scale. Then mix it up in as many ways as you can imagine! Leap between notes; start in the middle of the scale; sing on different vowels or words. Just remember to start slowly, and don't speed up until you feel comfortable at the slower pace. There's never a need to get frustrated! After all - Riffs aren't harder than SCALES!
How many DIFFERENT Vocal Registers did you use TODAY? Did you only sing in your Chest Voice? Or, maybe you were practicing songs and exercises in a light Falsetto or Head Voice. Maybe you've grown "obsessed" with the Mix coordinations. Be careful not to neglect the full spectrum of your Vocal Registration. Instead, spend some energy on the strong parts, the flexible parts, and the blended parts of your voice each day. One of them may be easier for you or may be more appropriate for the song you're working at the moment. However, giving your voice a "full-body workout" is the best way to strengthen your overall sound, expand your range, and balance your tone! How many registers will you use TOMORROW?
Happy St. Patrick's Day! This day is set aside to celebrate the heritage and culture of the Irish and the patron Saint of Ireland - St Patrick. On this Feast of St. Patrick many people party, eat, drink, and SING! Quite often, we can take singing very seriously. Being serious, strategic, and structured with vocal study definitely has its place most of the year. However, it's important to take it easy sometimes! Why not share your voice while celebrating with friends and family this holiday? Let this St. Patrick's day be a time where you let loose vocally! Be brave and let your singing voice be the true toast of the town! SLAINTE!
"If you don't like what's being said, CHANGE the conversation." Similarly, if you don't like what your BODY is saying, change the conversation! The next time you feel tension: MOVE! If it's your neck or upper body - turn your head, roll your shoulders, or shake your arms. If it's your jaw - help it move in a gentle chew or give it a massage. If it's your breathing system, place a hand on your abdominals and ribcage to feel the expansion. Sometimes it can be difficult to consciously choose to relax. Luckily, MOVEMENT is always a great way to combat tension. We're much better at making active choices than telling ourselves NOT to do something. So, change the conversation by saying: "Let's MOVE!".
Songs are like shoes! They need to be in a style that you like and that complements you. But, they also have to FIT. This means they may need to be tailored so they don't feel too tight (high) or too loose (low). In most contemporary styles, singers can change song keys to suit their comfort (aka Tessitura) while still displaying flashy technical aspects. If transposition is something you don't understand, work with a musician or vocal coach/teacher to help you choose the key and arrangement that sounds best on you! With Classical and Musical Theatre you generally have to sing in the original key. While this may demand a little more legwork in your repertoire search, it will eventually lead you to discovering roles you were born to play. Hey… if the shoe fits!
It's common for singers to "stand and deliver" while on stage. However, there are many times where heavy movement is required for performance. The integration of voice and movement is vital for most professional vocalists. Yet, all too often singers are left to figure out how to combine movement and singing without a solid strategy. Try some simple movements while practicing - walking, crawling, jumping jacks, or yoga positions like tree pose, lunge, or upward dog. These can be great ways to simulate movement stage movement while still in the vocal studio. Some actions may feel easy for you, while others may pose more of a challenge for breathing, resonance, and technique in general. So, get moving... and get singing! At the same time!
Open up your mouth wide and SING! Sounds like decent advice. But, it's not. Wide-mouthed singing looks big and dramatic and gives us the feeling that we're using our full efforts. However, it actually encourages poor vocal technique and creates unsustainable vocal situations. Hugely opening your mouth runs the risk of pushing of too much air, volume, and strength to achieve pitch. Not only are these habits unreliable, but they can lead to vocal fatigue and damage. Imagine being on a tightrope. You wouldn't want to run or skip across the rope unless you felt comfortable balancing while you walked. In the same way, master your songs with your mouth in a natural and neutral position first. Later, when your technique is solid, you can explore the nuances - and the visual dramatics - of opening your mouth as wide as you wish!
Singing is Joyful. Yet, sadly it often has FEAR surrounding it. Do you sing more quietly because you're scared of someone hearing and judging you? Do you avoid telling people you sing? Do you constantly say negative things to yourself about your own voice? If so, fear might be one of your biggest vocal challenges. But consider replacing fear with JOY! "I have a wonderful gift to share." "I make the good vocal choices and I'm kind to my singing voice." "I draw inner strength, confidence, and bravery from my vocal life." And most importantly: "I trust myself". These thoughts can help you before auditions, performances, and other situations that scare you. Singing doesn't have to be a fearful noise. Let it be a Joyful one!
Practice makes permanent! That even goes for your NERVES too! When we rehearse, we practice what we plan to do in performance. If we rehearse being NERVOUS about our high notes, we'll be nervous about our high notes in the audition room. Yet, if we rehearse at our bravest, we stand a far better chance of being BRAVE in the audition room. Practice singing with your entire being, acting with no hesitations, and unleashing your imagination into your performance. Be mindful to not rehearse negativity, self-doubt, fear, and self-criticism. In time, you will take your best and most-castable self into every audition. After all, you PRACTICED!